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  • Collection

    I was on U-tube checking out a posted link and ran across a young girl who was adamant about Western pleasure horses being collected. From everything I understand, they are the furthest thing from collected. Is there something I do not understand or is the term have a different meaning for those in Western Pleasure? I have read several articles about how it is a concern that Western Pleasure needs to work on balance over the emphasized "slowness" of the gaits.
    So educate me fellow Cothers.

    Last edited by stoicfish; Apr. 1, 2010, 03:48 PM.

  • #2
    Historically, western pleasure horses had to move off their hocks, lovely balanced, shorter strides than a dressage rider would want - but still showing collection. These were horses meant to work cattle, do rollbacks, etc. - and western pleasure in the show ring meant a horse capable of doing that work, but just a nice, pleasure to ride. In the late 80's things started to get extreme where they wanted to have the heads down and the horses going as slowly as possible. I don't remember if there was an actual rule that judges were to disqualify any horse whose ears dropped below the withers in a class, or just encouragement to place those horses last, but when I was showing a quarter horse in '91-'93 the goal was definitely a poll even with the withers. Collection was talked about in the western magazines, instructors gave good information on using your seat and legs to ask your horse to lift its back, lateral work to improve self-carriage and get the horse to hold itself collected even when you were on a loose rein. Now, I think a lot of people believe that's "collection" because it's a slow, short stride - but don't have the fundamental knowledge to understand what collection actually is, or that western pleasure horses used to show it when they went around a ring.

    Similarly, in dressage you see people who think a horse is extending wonderfully if it's front legs are flipped out far in front of it even if the rear hooves don't reach the hoof prints of the front hooves. I would say that's also an incorrect belief based on the current trend of wanting big movers and forgetting what their back ends are supposed to do. (Obviously, not ALL people! I think the people who know that's not collection have been chased away in the QH world, at least from competition - but I hope those who know what extension, balance, etc., are stick around the dressage world.)
    Originally posted by Silverbridge
    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


    • #3
      In actual western pleasure, I have not seen any real form of collection or even a straight horse.I still show it today But my horse rides haunches in and hops instead of canters lol.

      In "Western Riding" where you have lead changes, ground poles, and such, my horse is straighter and more "collection" is used to enable us to do the work, HOWEVER, the term is rather loose.

      Reining is the closest, but still loose terms of collection as the wither doesnt exactly come up as the hind engages so its not truly "sitting".

      That term in any western even is loose as a friggin goose
      Last edited by NOMIOMI1; Apr. 1, 2010, 06:19 PM.
      ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


      • #4
        This month's Dressage Connections has an article by a western trainer-Al Dunning, who trains reining and cutting horses, observing the differences in training. His comment that"in the beginning we rock the bit in the mouth" "just sliding it side to side", set my teeth on edge.

        His earlier comment that "You can take a really good reining horse out on the trail, I don't know if you'd take a dressage horse up a mountain", really didn't set too well with me either.

        There have to be some western trainers out there who have a little better knowledge of the conditioning, mental and physical, that goes into a top dressage horse. I doubt that the trainer I worked with was the only one on the face of the earth who hacked GP horses out in the surrounding countryside.
        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


        • #5
          I can say for sure, that my dressage horse would and did go up 'mountains', she came in 1st and 2nd in her 2 CTR's she was in. and was the best trail horse I've had. She beat warmbloods in dressage at their facility! they weren't very happy about that one.
          I think there's collection-and there's too much in your face and having them go to slow' collection-which IMO is what the 'western pleasure' people have now. I'd much rather see a horse using his haunches, and able to actually move! YOu'd get nowhere on a trail with those horses!
          Equine Massage Therapy Classes and Rehab for Horses


          • #6
            Well, to be moving THAT slow, they have to be using their hind ends to a certain extent. I saw a few that were doing an unrecognizable gait during the trot, but other than that, they were light on the forehand and in "self carriage" of a different sort.


            • #7
              Since this is something that has always bothered me...

              I don't know about all western trainers, but the one at the barn I ride at is adamant about getting their backs up and working from behind. He does western pleasure and is all about getting the horses off their forehands - none of his horses are dragging themselves along on their front legs, I can tell you that much. I have to admit that it seems to me a lot of dressage riders scoff at western riders, but in reality the western and dressage training has many similar aspects.

              I've ridden western, though I currently just jump and do dressage with my TB. I've been working with a friend's WBX and when I ride at the same time the western trainer is riding, we can often discuss my friend's horses' engagement and collection (and lightness of the forehand) without any confusion despite being from different disciplines.

              Many of the western pleasure horses are spur trained - they pick their backs up and collect when tapped on the belly with spurs. As far as I understand it, the collection itself slows their legs. If their backs aren't up and they aren't breaking at the poll, they lose the bounce in their backs that comes from hind end engagement and their gaits become false and flat (you can see the difference, just as you can see a horse become flat in the dressage ring). The trainer at my barn always says that you can slow a horse down when you need too, but if you lose the purity of the gaits, you're in trouble.

              I don't know... I feel like the western trainer at my barn knows his stuff, and I don't think I'd ever say his horses go around uncollected and on the forehand.



              • #8
                Hevonen - exactly. Unfortunately, that's not what MOST western trainers do these days, which is why I decided to switch disciplines to dressage. I'm having to get used to a different frame, horses with longer strides, and learning what the lateral movement I always did as training is supposed to look like in a show ring... but it's all basically the same.

                The western trainer where you are sounds a lot like my old trainer. He didn't use spurs, either, just seat and legs, and we all rode with two hands most of the time. Lifted and round without lifting the head means the hind end doesn't drop down as much/front end doesn't look as lifted - but it's still a type of collection if it really happens. For most of the horses n that video, it was not there at all.

                With all the western trainers I have ridden with in the past, dressage was an absolutely necessary part of training. In fact, once I started riding dressage as a show discipline I didn't think I understood what half halts are, as I listened to how hard they are... but were something we always had to do. And when your horse is travelling on a loose rein, it sure better respect your seat if you want to attempt to ask it to round when it starts to drop its back!
                Originally posted by Silverbridge
                If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                • #9
                  @netg - Hurray! Like I said, I can't speak for all trainers out there, but it's good to know at least some people understand that a REAL western pleasure horse drives from behind.

                  Actually, my western trainer does use spurs - as an aid in telling the horse to collect. I think everyone should ride a spur-trained horse once in their life, it's pretty cool! And man, some of the horses he's trained can REALLY lift their backs. Most people seem to think the western spurs are used to make a horse go, but the modern use is to ask them to collect. They're also used to tell a horse to stop from any gait. Squeeze your spurs on a horse that's spur trained, and you'd better have your heels down and your butt in that saddle, because they're gonna slam on the breaks (and a lot of them stop with their hind end tucked under them, too).

                  The youngsters who haven't really learned to go around on a long rein and respond correctly to leg/seat/spur aids to collect are ridden two-handed often in a snaffle bit, and lemme tell ya, they round up just like dressage horses. In fact, when he gets done with one of his current horses, maybe I'll just steal him for dressage...

                  Also, as a side note, I think NOMIOMI1 said the horses aren't straight? They don't travel straight, but they're supposed to be straight on an angle, if that makes sense? Their hips stay in, but they don't bend so that their front legs are straight and their hips are in like you would in haunches in. It's more like a slight leg yield down the rail, as I understand it. A western pleasure horses' body should be in a straight line with no counterflexing.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank-you everyone for your input. I appreciate it. So to the people that say there is an element of collection - so do you see it in the video I linked to? And if so please explain. At the canter I noticed the horse having to use their heads to transfer weight to be able to get his front end up. It seems there is a lot of weight on the front end of these horses in the video?
                    BTW i also agree that not all extravagantly movement in horses is collected.


                    • #11
                      I guess you will have to put me in the camp that says the video does not show collection. Most of the horses are executing gaits that are impure. This tends to be true of many horses that are trained for strictly pleasure classes. I do not find it as true for horses that are well-trained for the working western classes.

                      We can look at western in the same way we look at dressage in that many of our upper level dressage horses are being shown without the collection needed for the level being ridden. Instead of saying "collection," however, in dressage we say that the horse is not "coming through." "Not coming through" implies that there is some collection, though not "completely" there.

                      Al Dunning, is one of the top working western trainers in the Quarterhorse industry. I understand what he means about dressage horses not being taken out on the trail. He is not speaking of a horse that is ridden by an amateur owner. He is speaking about upper level horses that are, for the most part, in training all the time with a top trainer...just as he, himself, is a top trainer in the western world.

                      From what I have seen, which has been over a long time, but a limited area of the country, there is a somewhat different mind-set as to what is required in the training of a western horse as compared to what is required for the training of a dressage horse. Both groups want well-trained horses, but how "well-trained horse" is defined is slightly different. "Well-trained" for the western horse tends to mean a more rounded training, both in the ring and out, while that phrase for dressage tends to mean ring riding only. I would say that the cross-country folk have a mindset closer to that of the western world in expecting the horse to be more well-rounded.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by stoicfish View Post
                        So to the people that say there is an element of collection - so do you see it in the video I linked to?

                        I couldn't handle watching the whole thing because I hate what most western trainers are doing to their horses now. To me, there SHOULD be collection... but for the most part it has become some perversion of the gaits which is off balance and unable to do anything else. Even if a western pleasure horse is to be used in horsemanship, it has to learn to balance better so it can do transitions at the correct points, halt from a lope, lope from a halt, etc. While watching that video I didn't see any horses who would have been capable of doing those things.
                        Originally posted by Silverbridge
                        If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                        • #13

                          I can't honestly say I watched the video - I was just posting my feelings on western and collection in general. However, I can do that now...

                          And I think that that rider in the blue starts off with SOME collection (albeit not a lot at all) but seems to lose it fast (as in, within a few strides). I see a LOT of horses with their noses out too much for my personal taste, and correspondingly their backs are dropped (aaaand they seem to really lose that true jog, it's replaced with something akin to a shuffling gait). It's so easy get into the "my horse is going really slow so I must be doing it right" mindset... and it seems to me that a lot of these people are falling into it. I actually see it in dressage too - people think because a horse's trot is slowed and their neck is round, that they are doing a collected trot. Too often the horse is sucked back and not truly working with it's back up.

                          Didn't watch much more than a few seconds, I'm not a huge fan of watching western pleasure classes.

                          I'm in agreement with netg, nothing really collected about that class IMO.


                          • #14
                            Lets put it this way, MOST of these horses (ones good enough for senior western world) came out of the box moving like that.

                            In the yearlings class you will see horses move like this without ever being put in side reins on the lunge.

                            A low swinging hock DOES NOT our term for collection make.

                            But it IS a form.

                            Now, as a poster above said SOME collection is needed to go that slow, and I would agree with that. But the horse built to naturally take weight in the hocks and joints is much easier.
                            ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                            • #15
                              I have no steady trainer, so when I need help with my young mare I turn to my farrier, who is a champion reiner. After an hour with him I have a whole new understanding of lightness, engagement, and a rounded back. She is not yet ready for collection but when she is I will know where to turn.


                              • #16
                                collection invloves shorter, HIGHER steps.

                                in western pleasure the steps arent higher, and the horses are level, not uphill.

                                That collection means in dressage is different from what collection in western pleasure is.
                                "Let the fence be the bit." - Phillip Dutton


                                • #17
                                  Akkkk! You are making me watch this again. Rider in blue, some collection. Rider in purple, not even trotting - how do you get to a championship and not recognize that. When the music starts, they all seem to move on a bit, is that a call for some sort of different trot, cause I see more "collection" there, in the sense that the horse is carrying weight behind.

                                  At the lope, I saw one horse, a chestnut with lots of white, that was actually in a three beat gait usually known as a canter. No collection from any of the horses in the ring.

                                  So how many judges do they HAVE? There are at least three guys with clipboards in the ring. And who WINS? Yes, I know "Potential Diva", but which one is that? OMG that purple one won some money!

                                  What do you even need the trot and canter for if the goal is to move so slow someone can walk next to you?


                                  • #18
                                    Western collection?

                                    Checked USEF and AQHA rules yet I could not find any description for 'collection' in a western class.
                                    USEF, in the western trail class has under the scoring section listed as 'minor faults' - over or under flexion, out of balance, poll to high or too low to throw horse out of balance.

                                    The back being up, hindquarters engaged, length of stride being equal front and rear, and height of poll - - is not addressed by AQHA and USEF
                                    Ask and allow, do not demand and force.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Sometimes people in different disciplines use terminology differently. As I understand it collection is a body position that allows the horse to shift its weight backward in order to increase balance when changes in direction, speed or gaits are called for.
                                      I cannot find this in the body position or movement of the horses in the above mentioned class.
                                      I can see some in this , but it looks different as the horse is built more downhill.
                                      This shows a high degree of collection.
                                      Last edited by stoicfish; Apr. 4, 2010, 04:50 PM.


                                      • #20
                                        The reining horse is not collected, is heavy on the forehand, back and hindquarters are not engaged. The shoulders are not giving the forelegs any length of stride.

                                        The bull fighting horse is collected and is a very athletic horse. Notice the rider maintains the contact and rarely wavers which allows the horse the ability to use his body correctly.

                                        A collected horse will have the back up and the hindquarters engaged and this can be seen by the equality of the angles of the cannon bones of the alternate legs.
                                        Ask and allow, do not demand and force.